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Tales of the Unanswered!

by Pete Segall

He came to the door selling subscriptions to magazines people no longer read. I invited him inside and made coffee. He said he was nearly broke. His wife and children moved in with her mother while he slept in their car. I asked him which magazine was his favorite. Easy, he said, and named a title about infamous unsolved crimes. I asked why that one. Because each case is full of hope, he said, before finishing his coffee.

Author's Note

This began with a long rumination on Unsolved Mysteries, a show not about the solving of crimes but about how ultrapresent terror is in America. (Maybe you can help solve a mystery or, much more likely, you can become a mystery yourself.) A weekly anthology of the unexplained doesn't concern itself with explanation; it revels in what it doesn't answer. It's unalloyed terror as a rigged game (cf. Chesterton's labyrinth with nothing at its center). Consequently, it scared the bejeezus out of me. I wanted to jump from this inescapable unknowable; the landing spot was a suggestion of how scarce a commodity optimism is at the moment.

Pete Segall's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Conjunctions, SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, the Literary Review, Recommended Reading Commuter, and elsewhere. He lives in Chicago.